Sunday, August 21, 2011

A sublime Sunday - Wet Plate and Friends

The Stone Diaries I
wet plate collodion tintype

This morning as I was drinking tea on the studio porch, I was thinking how my day might unfold: make some new tintypes; meet with a dear friend Jan for coffee; make some kallitype prints. Here's how the day has progressed so far (it's late afternoon here).

After a brief ride on the bike, I came back to find the sun full and bright in the back yard - perfect tintype conditions. I made four plates in total: two still lifes and two garden views, working in partly cloudy direct light, full on direct light and open shade. At this stage of my adventures in wet plate collodion, I like to mix and match conditions so that I become better at reading the light for determining exposure times, and also so I can get a better feel for how differences in light change the qualities (depth and contrast in particular) of the resulting images.

For the first plate of the day, I set up a table for still lifes, and picked up two rocks my wife had brought home. Elena has a strong affinity for "special" rocks and often picks up unusual examples based on shape, colours and textures. Once I saw the image on the ground glass, I imagined doing a series of images ("The Stone Diaries"), so I may well have another theme to work with as I continue to deepen my experience with wet plate. I then set up a still life with zucchini, watermelon and a half of an avocado in bright direct light:

Still life with zucchini, melon and avocado
wet plate collodion tintype

Now that I have more experience, I knew based on the still life images I made last week that I should stop down the lens for a 5 second exposure. Creases in the canvas ground provided a geometrical element to the composition that accentuates the organic shapes of the vegetables.

Finally, I did some work in open shade, making two views of the garden: the graceful bend of a japanese maple, and a rock element within the fern bed. I'm learning from these plates that open shade seems to lead to a higher contrast image:

Japanese maple
wet plate collodion tintype

Fern bed
wet plate collodion tintype

I decided to stop and clean up at that point, keeping to this principle of doing "just enough" to strengthen the consistency of my plate pouring, exposure and processing before I get to the point where I lose concentration.

A short while later, my friend Xane called to invite me over to his place for lunch with Jan. Jan is a mutual friend who moved away to Vancouver, so it's always a treat to catch up with her when she comes over to the island for a visit. Such impromptu invitations are unusual in this town, but we're all comfortable enough with each other to get together at a moment's notice. And Xane's place is a little bit of Tuscan peacefulness in the heart of the city suburbs.

We started with a throw back to our childhoods: grilled cheese sandwiches that Xane made with local cheddar and a hearty full grain bread, beans straight from the garden freshly steamed, then small sweets and watermelon. We talked about our childhood memories around food, family gatherings and picnics. After lunch I did a little show and tell of some of my tintypes and photogravure prints. Both Jan and Xane are experienced artists whose knowledge and work I greatly respect, so it was wonderful to get some feedback on this recent work from them. We finished the afternoon draped over the furniture, napping and conversing in complete relaxation.

With coffee turning into a delightful lunch and time spent in conversation, I've only just now returned home. I still hope to complete my pre-visualized day by making a few kallitype proof prints.

1 comment:

J. M. Golding said...

This does sound like a perfect day! I'm looking forward to your adventures with the Stone Diaries - I can see why you were inspired.